Commercial, GHG Emissions - August 4, 2023 - By Andrea Albright, Walmart
Walmart and Rubi Laboratories Breathe Fresh Air into Sustainable Fashion
One of the many things that excites me about Walmart is how we continuously push for innovative solutions, always asking, “What if?”
Like, what if we could make affordable clothing from carbon emissions?
It sounds impossible, right? But Walmart and Rubi Laboratories have announced pilot projects aiming to do just that, by exploring how we could capture carbon emissions from manufacturers and facilities in the Walmart supply chain and convert them into a garment prototype – with zero waste.
When I toured the Rubi facility earlier this year, I got to see their carbon capture process firsthand, and it felt like magic, this creation of something seemingly out of thin air. The science, though, is more exciting. It started with trees. Rubi founders Neeka and Leila Mashouf took inspiration from how trees “eat” CO2 to create needed cellulose to grow and have figured out a way to mimic this natural process in the lab. Their patent-pending process, like trees, captures and converts carbon emissions, spinning the resulting cellulose into something we all need: fabric. The final products are carbon-negative, resource-neutral textiles that can be used for clothing and other materials.
Innovation is such an important part of building resiliency in our supplier base and maintaining surety of supply. Rubi’s technology could reimagine the apparel supply chain, and I’m so proud that Walmart is the first company to execute both manufacturing and brand pilot agreements with them.
The manufacturing pilot will examine how Rubi’s technology could be integrated at a larger scale in the Walmart supply chain and test the capture of carbon emissions at some of Walmart’s own facilities. The brand pilot will test Rubi’s fiber performance in a prototype garment, with the goal of producing garment samples. If successful, a larger apparel collection could follow and be available in our stores.
“At Rubi, our goal is to ensure a thriving future by restoring Earth’s ecological balance with reimagined supply chains,” said Neeka Mashouf, co-founder and CEO of Rubi Labs. “Walmart’s ability to mobilize positive impact across its supply chain of diverse U.S. partners could be massively impactful in scaling our production and delivering on our commitments. We’re thrilled to partner with them.”
Walmart’s sustainability efforts are grounded in our belief that we can use our scale to have a positive impact everywhere we operate, meaning doing more good, not just less harm. Importantly, sustainable should also mean affordable, so we are also focused on prototyping an apparel line that can be produced at scale and widely available to our customers – who seek the right value and price in what they purchase in our stores. We’re confident that, if successful in these pilots, there is a real possibility of creating garments that offer value and contribute to a better environment for everyone – and we think customers will be excited to be a part of that.
At Walmart, we’re helping make the sustainable choice the affordable choice as we continue our journey to becoming a regenerative company. And that means tackling complex problems and finding innovative solutions across our supply chain. We see great potential beyond apparel as these pilots could have implications across so many products and industries: packaging, building materials, food, and even the creation of new raw material. The possibilities are staggering, and we’re excited to see where this journey takes us as we work toward a more sustainable and equitable future.
This column originally appeared in the Walmart newsroom.
Andrea Albright serves as executive vice president, Sourcing, for Walmart. Since joining the company in 2005, Andrea has held positions of increasing responsibility, driving innovation and transformation across the Walmart U.S. Merchandising and People organizations, and earning a reputation as a dynamic, solutions-oriented leader. Most recently, Andrea served as senior vice president/general merchandising manager for the Snacks, Beverages, Candy, Front-End and Convenience business. Prior to this role, Andrea served as VP of Home Office HR.
Andrea has been recognized as an International Women’s Forum fellow and a rising woman in business by Fortune Most Powerful Women Next Gen. She credits her success to creating strategies with a customer-first mindset while building highly competent, cognitively diverse teams that can effectively execute against those strategies. With 10 years of leadership experience managing and inspiring large teams, she fosters environments built on trust and psychological safety — a proven model that encourages radical candor among team members, accelerates the speed of collaboration and innovation and results in less waste and more targeted use of resources.
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